Updated at 5:22 p.m.:

GREENSBORO — N.C. A&T will finish the football season without its best defensive back.

All-America cornerback Franklin “Mac” McCain, a sophomore from Dudley, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the Aggies’ 35-10 victory at Bethune-Cookman and will need surgery to repair the damage.

The surgery could happen as soon as next week, A&T head coach Sam Washington said today.

“Initially, it was very tough on him. Frank was pretty down,” Washington said. “But now that the reality of the situation has set in, he’s doing a very good job accepting what happened and looking forward. He wants to get it fixed and start working his way back. He has a very good support system with his family. I have no doubt he’ll be fine.”

But the No. 17 Aggies (3-1 MEAC, 6-2) will be without McCain for the last three games of the regular season, starting with homecoming against Norfolk State (1-3, 3-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“You hate to lose anyone, especially to a season-ending injury,” Washington said. “We understand it’s part of the process. It’s football, and you’re going to be faced with things like that. Unfortunately it was Mac, a guy who has been a playmaker for us. He will be missed out there.”

McCain, the defensive MVP of last year’s Celebration Bowl, ranks fourth among A&T defenders this season with 37 tackles, including a team-best 29 solos. He leads the Aggies with 10 passes defended, eight breakups and two interceptions, including one returned 100 yards for a touchdown at East Carolina.

He has eight career interceptions and has returned four for touchdowns.

Justin Cates, a junior defensive tackle, said A&T’s front four understand what it means to lose a player of McCain’s caliber.

“We’ve just got to get more pressure on the quarterback,” Cates said. “Mac is great player, an All-American DB. He’s always back there getting interceptions and pass breakups. It’s up to us now to step up for him, and help whoever comes in for him.”

Amir McNeil, a freshman from Laurinburg, will likely step into McCain’s starting spot. McNeil has played in all eight games this season and has 14 tackles (11 solos) and four pass breakups.

“Amir is really good,” Cates said. “He’s a freshman, and people might not know him, but he can ball, man. He’ll be all right back there. He’ll be fine.”

McCain and McNeil, who are close friends, have similar speed. But McCain is taller and about 20 pounds heavier after an extra year in the weight room.

“They both can run,” Washington said. “They both have good instincts, being able to see and recognize cuts and little stuff receivers do. They pick up on when receivers drop their hands or hips. They know the transition to when it’s a deep-ball threat vs. a comeback route. Those are things you really can’t coach. It’s instinct. You either have it or you don’t, and both Amir and Mac have it.”

Washington was a star defensive back in his playing days, and he still holds a Pittsburgh Steelers team record by intercepting at least one pass in five consecutive games in 1984.

As a coach, he teaches different methods to defend against quarterbacks’ quick throws from three-step dropbacks.

“Very few coaches teach that particular technique,” Washington said. “Mac McCain had mastered it, and it was very hard to get a three-step throw in on him. He grasped that concept extremely well. It’s very important to know when a receiver is cutting, and a lot of that is based on down and distance. Mac understands that, too. He put in the time in the film room to learn those things.”

McNeil made four tackles and broke up a pass against Bethune-Cookman after McCain left the game. What’s missing is a year of experience.

“I have a lot of confidence in Amir McNeil,” Washington said. “He played man-to-man coverage well enough that we didn’t have to change a whole lot of what we do. Now, we are going to have to be able to give him some help at times we deem necessary. But I’m looking forward to seeing how good he plays.”

McCain was hurt on what appeared to be a non-contact play at Bethune-Cookman with 4:55 left in the first quarter.

McCain, who had been flexing the left knee before the play began, lined up opposite the Wildcats’ best wide receiver, Keavon Mitchell, and covered him down the field on a completed pass to another receiver, Steffon Francois, who ran a shorter route.

McCain planted on his left foot, then fell to the artificial turf of Daytona Beach’s Municipal Stadium, clutching the left knee.

“It’s just one of those things,” Washington said. “His foot got caught in the turf, twisted the wrong way and, boom, he’s hurt.”


Posted at 2:39 p.m.

GREENSBORO — N.C. A&T will finish the football season without its best defensive back.

All-America cornerback Mac McCain, a sophomore from Dudley, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the Aggies’ 35-10 victory at Bethune-Cookman and will need surgery to repair the damage.

The surgery could happen as soon as next week, A&T head coach Sam Washington said Monday.

“Initially, it was very tough on him. Frank was pretty down,” Washington said. “But now that the reality of the situation has set in, he’s doing a very good job accepting what happened and looking forward. He wants to get it fixed and start working his way back. He has a very good support system with his family. I have no doubt he’ll be fine.”

But the No. 17 Aggies (3-1 MEAC, 6-2) will be without McCain for the last three games of the regular season, starting with Homecoming against Norfolk State (1-3, 3-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

McCain was hurt on what appeared to be a non-contact play at Bethune-Cookman with 4:55 left in the first quarter.

A&T’s cornerback, who had been flexing the left knee before the play began, lined up opposite the Wildcats’ best wide receiver, Keavon Mitchell, and covered him down the field on a completed pass to another receiver, Steffon Francois.

McCain planted on his left foot, then fell to the artificial turf of Daytona Beach’s Municipal Stadium, clutching the left knee.

McCain ranks fourth among A&T defenders this season with 37 tackles, including a team-best 29 solos. He leads the Aggies with 10 passes defended, eight break-ups and two interceptions, including one returned 100 yards for a touchdown at East Carolina.

He has eight career interceptions and has returned four for touchdowns.

Amir McNeil, a freshman from Laurinburg, will likely step into McCain’s starting spot. McNeil has played in all eight games this season and has 14 tackles (11 solos) and four pass break-ups. He had four tackles and pass break-up against Bethune-Cookman after McCain left the game.

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Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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